Tug of War is surely one of the simplest sports you can try your hand at – all you need is one big piece of rope and two groups of burly people pulling as hard as they can. On Thursday there is an opportunity to give this ancient sport a go on Christ Church meadow in the cuppers competition. But where does it come from? And is it as basic as it first appears?

The contest of pulling a rope can be traced back to ancient ceremonies from all over the world, but was first used as a test of strength in Greece around 500 BC. Tug of War was even an Olympic Sport at the beginning of the 20th century. Great Britain won the gold medal on two occasions and are technically the reigning Olympic champions, however it has been 90 years since the competition was last held. Since being downgraded from Olympic level, the sport has not enjoyed widespread participation, but there are still international competitions and the England men’s team won the world indoor championships in 2010.

The rules are fairly obvious – but there are some restrictions meaning it is not simply a free-for-all of pulling. A centre marker is put on the middle of the rope and the contest begins with it directly above a centre line on the ground. Two markers are placed at equal distances from the centre point, and the objective is to pull the centre marker on the rope past the marker closest to your team. There a few rules governing how the rope must be pulled; a competitor’s elbow cannot go below their knee, the rope must stay under the arm at all times and sitting down is against the rules. These really are the only rules however, and even these are only half-heartedly observed at most informal events.
Personal attributes required to be successful in tug of war obviously include explosive strength and power – but also tough hands that are resistant to rope burn and blisters. In most official competitions there are weight restrictions so that small but strong people don’t have to compete against huge and very strong people. It is however very much a team game, with those who can coordinate pulls in unison likely to be victorious.
The cuppers event takes place on Thursday at 4pm on Christ Church meadow with teams of five people, having at least two girls in each. As well as a prize for the winning team, there is also one for the best costume.
Teams therefore have a difficult decsion to make – go for functional shorts and t-shirts and aim for the win, or dust off the old bop costumes and take the other prize. If you fancy pulling before the end of term you should get in contact with your college sports rep.